Norwich rapist could be let out early

A sex offender who was sentenced to life imprisonment for kidnapping and repeatedly assaulting and raping a young woman at an isolated caravan could be free within five years after a decision by appeal judges today.

A sex offender who was sentenced to life imprisonment for kidnapping and repeatedly assaulting and raping a young woman at an isolated caravan could be free within five years after a decision by appeal judges today.

After kidnapping her from a supermarket car park, Robert Malcolm English, 59, of Fiddlewood Green, Norwich, took his 21-year-old victim to the spot he said would be her grave if she did not yield to his sick lust.

At Norwich Crown Court in October, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of seven-and-a-half years, after admitting kidnap, false imprisonment, two rapes, sexual assault and assault by penetration.

But today, three senior judges ruled that the sentence was wrong and ordered that English be allowed to apply for parole after serving just five years and four months of a term of imprisonment for public protection.

As English had already served 81 days behind bars when he was sentenced in October, the decision means he will be free to apply for his release from prison in less than five years.

It took a major police operation to snare the sex beast after the terrified young woman reported what had happened to her at English's caravan in Hockwold, in Norfolk, last June.

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Using information gleaned from the time she spent in his car after the kidnap to guide their search, police scrambled helicopters and pinpointed the van where English was arrested.

Later, his victim told in graphic detail of her ordeal at his hands.

After asking for her help in loading a heavy bag into his car at the Tesco supermarket in Brandon, west Suffolk, English produced a knife and forced her into the back.

He bound her feet and hands with rope, wrapping it twice around her neck and threatening to cut her there and then if she did not stop struggling.

He then covered her with a sleeping bag and t-shirt before driving her to his secluded caravan where he pointed out the depression in the earth which was to be her "grave" if she did not submit.

She was then subjected to a series of sex assaults and rapes, during which she begged to be released, fearing all the time that she was going to be killed.

He eventually released her after driving her hooded back to Brandon and letting her go.

But that was not the end of the matter for the victim, as she suffered "medical consequences" and described a series of mental and emotional effects.

She suffered flashbacks and panic attacks, was on medication and was afraid to be alone or to sleep in the dark. Her life had, effectively, been "ruined", she said in a statement.

Reports compiled prior to his sentencing revealed English to be remorseful, but unable to understand what motivated his offending that day.

Although he posed a low to medium risk of re-offending, he would continue to be a danger to the public until he could come to terms with why he acted that way.

Sentencing him, Judge Neil McKittrick said he considered the offences so serious that only a sentence of life imprisonment, with the resulting life licence if released, was appropriate.

But today, lawyers representing English at the Court of Appeal succeeded in convincing Lord Justice Dyson, Mr Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Sweeney that it was wrong.

Lord Justice Dyson said: "Grave though these offences were, in our view, this was not a case for the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment.

"We acknowledge this was a truly horrific experience for a 21-year-old victim who will almost certainly be haunted by the memory for the rest of her life, but we do not think that they justify a life sentence."

Reducing the minimum period he must serve before applying for release, he continued: "This was a very bad case indeed, with a number of serious aggravating features.

"Not least of these was the threats to kill the victim and the pointing to her of the depression in the ground, described by the victim as being her grave if she did not comply with his demands, as well as the medical consequences of her ordeal.

"That said, he did not, in fact, use the knife, nor did he use violence on the victim, over and above the sexual acts themselves."

Under the sentence of imprisonment for public protection, English will not be released until he has satisfied the Parole Board he is safe to be freed. He will serve five years and four months before even being allowed to apply.

To read an exclusive interview with English's victim see tomorrow's Evening News.